China reporter Chen Yongzhou 'confesses' on TV

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Media captionMichael Bristow explains the twist in the tale of Chen Yongzhou's confession

An imprisoned Chinese journalist whose newspaper has made front-page appeals for his release has confessed to wrongdoing on state TV.

"I'm willing to admit my guilt and to show repentance," said reporter Chen Yongzhou. He was arrested over claims he defamed a partly state-owned firm in articles exposing alleged corruption.

State media said he had admitted writing false stories for money.

Several high-profile suspects have made televised confessions recently.

Public confessions have long been a part of China's criminal law.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says it is impossible to know whether the admission was forced out of him.

Experts say confessions are still routinely coerced, despite an amendment to the criminal procedure law earlier this year forbidding the authorities from forcing anyone to incriminate themselves.

'Hankered after money'

Mr Chen wrote several articles for the Guangdong-based New Express newspaper alleging financial irregularities at a construction-equipment company called Zoomlion. The company denies the allegations.

"In this case I've caused damages to Zoomlion and also the whole news media industry and its ability to earn the public's trust," he told state broadcaster CCTV.

"I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I've been used. I've realised my wrongdoing."

State media said he had confessed to taking bribes, but did not report who might have paid the bribes.

His case attracted huge attention after the New Express twice used its front page to call for his release.

The newspaper has not yet commented on the confession.

Media monitoring group China Digital Times reported that the Communist Party's propaganda department had barred newspapers from reporting the story.

An instruction from the department also warned papers to monitor reporters' individual social-media accounts.

But many newspapers have continued to cover the story.

The Southern Metropolis Daily published an editorial accusing officials in Zoomlion's hometown of Changsha of abuse of power over the case.

Image caption A screen shot of the New Express headline that reads "Please Release Him"

According to the Hong Kong-based China Media Project, the paper had to pull an earlier editorial under pressure from censors.

China's newspaper industry is tightly controlled by a system of local censors carrying out party directives.

But there have been several high-profile rows over censorship.

Earlier this year staff at the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly paper went on strike after a new-year editorial calling for reform was censored.

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